15 March 2011
It won’t be business as usual in South Africa anymore, with the new National Consumer Commission set to change the experience of customers and business owners by introducing a range of benefits for both parties.
The commission will be responsible for administering the new Consumer Protection Act, which comes into effect on 1 April 2011.
Speaking at the launch of the commission in Pretoria last week, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said the commission would usher in a new era in consumer protection. “Consumers have a right to be defended against shoddy and sub-standard goods through the Act,” he said.
In its first year of existence, the commission will focus on uplifting rural, often poor consumers. In its second year, it will focus on the ICT, manufacturing and retail, as well as the medical and pharmaceutical sectors.
Protecting consumers and producers
The launch of the commission follows a process that began in 2004, when a survey sponsored by the department revealed that South African consumers had little information regarding their rights as consumers, especially those situated in poor communities.
Legislation at the time did not address the challenges of discriminatory and unfair market practices and led to the new Act, which will allow consumers redress.
Davies described the Act as “groundbreaking”, as it would also protect producers from unfair competition from illegal imports. “I believe the legislation will be of great importance to consumers and producers, especially manufactures,” he said. “It will give them an opportunity to raise their game and improve competitiveness.
“Fair trade is what we seek to introduce in South Africa,” Davie said, adding that the poor in most cases were victims of unfair trade.
National Consumer Commission chief Mamodupi Mohlala said that when consumers lodged a complaint with them, the matter would be addressed within a six-week turnaround period. Resolving the matter was expected to take six months, except when the matter required more scrutiny, such as having to have products tested.
The commission has also signed an agreement with the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), which will see the bureau providing the commission with testing facilities should there be a need.
The Act would protect consumer rights in an uncompromising way, as well provide valuable services to consumers. The Act also gives the commission the right to recall products.